By Laura Keil

As the tourist season kicked off with May Long last weekend, the Province announced upgrades to rest stops along several major highways in the name of making it easier for people to stop and rest on long road journeys, including for commercial truck drivers. Noticeably missing were any upgrades for the upper North Thompson or Robson Valley, despite the million-plus drivers that travel this route every year, and the lack of trucker amenities close to Valemount to ease the parking woes and gridlock that have been plaguing its frontage road.

But instead of arguing for better rest stops (or ones that stay open in the winter), which are definitely needed, I’m going to pivot to a bigger issue. What’s really needed – before more charging stations or playground upgrades – are more passing lanes in the stretch of highway between Clearwater and the Alberta border.

ICBC has an online map of collisions between 2017 and 2021. The downside is you can’t search along highways, only municipalities or their close vicinity – an odd oversight, given that many collisions occur along highways. Even with these incomplete stats, there have been four collisions at Moose Lake/Mt. Robson, two at the Tete Jaune junction, six collisions near Valemount, half a dozen on Hwy 16 near McBride, Dome Creek and Crescent Spur, 10 in and around Blue River (including Bone Creek and Thunder River) and seven near Avola. That’s not including any highway collisions between communities.

According to ICBC stats, an average of 264 people have died each year in the last five years in B.C. due to fatal crashes. 90 people a year died in the Lower Mainland, and 48 in the North Central region (an area comprised of Cariboo and Fraser Fort-George regional districts and those further north). The number of motorists in northern BC pales in comparison to the Lower Mainland, yet collisions are high.

Driving Hwy 5 between Tete Jaune and Clearwater and Hwy 16 in Mt. Robson Park in the summertime often feels like you’re taking your life into your hands. It’s been many years since we’ve had new passing lanes added. It’s about time more were added. I hope ICBC keeps better stats in its own records about where collisions occur. These are useful details when it comes to improving road safety and saving lives.